SpaceX achieved a double success Friday with the launch of a Japanese communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, followed minutes later by the touchdown of the Falcon 9 rocket’s 15-story first stage booster on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket lifted off at 1:21 a.m. EDT (0521 GMT) Friday from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad, turned east over the Atlantic, and raced into orbit with Japan’s JCSAT 14 spacecraft, a commercial broadcasting platform owned by Tokyo-based SKY Perfect JSAT Corp.
The Falcon 9’s first stage detached from the launcher less than three minutes after liftoff to begin a powered descent to SpaceX’s landing target, or drone ship, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.
These photos released by SpaceX, and taken from the company’s live launch webcast, show the liftoff, landing and the first stage aboard the drone ship after sunrise Friday.
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